When you own a dog, it's up to you to protect others from your pup's behavior. In fact, if someone is bitten by your dog, you may be liable for any injuries caused. But to be held liable, there must be some evidence that you behaved in a negligent manner and that negligence led to the bite. Here's a look at what you should know about negligent actions as a dog owner and resulting dog bites.
What Could Be Considered a Negligent Action?
As with any kind of injury case, every dog bite is unique and should be handled that way. There's no single list of defined negligent actions that could lead to liability in a dog bite case. Each situation is evaluated on its merits. If the court finds that your actions leading up to the incident were reasonable, you won't likely be considered liable for the accident.
Reasonable actions include things like keeping your dog secured. Whether you've fenced in your yard or restrained your dog with a leash or chain, those things will be taken into consideration. The same applies if you have signs posted around your property alerting people to an aggressive dog. If someone comes inside your fence line or approaches your dog despite your visible warnings, the court may find that you took reasonable steps and are not liable.
Sometimes your actions can lead to the attack, though. For example, if you encouraged your dog or you made no effort to prevent the bite when it happened, the judge may find you liable for the incident and the resulting costs. In addition, allowing your dog out in your yard unsecured may also be considered negligence on your part. You might even be to blame if someone riding a bicycle by your house is chased by your unsecured dog and sustains an injury in the process.
How Does Illegal Activity Affect A Dog Bite Case?
When it comes to determining liability and negligence for a dog bite case, any illegal activity will weigh heavily. In fact, illegal activity on either part could affect the court's finding. For example, if your state or county has a leash law requiring all dogs to be restrained on a leash when they are outside, anyone bitten when your dog is unrestrained may be more likely to get a settlement because you violated the leash law.
If, on the other hand, the victim was bitten in the process of breaking into your house, that illegal action shows negligence on their part. In that case, the court may find that the victim assumed the risk of being bitten when they chose to commit the crime of breaking and entering. In cases like that, the illegal activity by the victim may be enough to protect you from liability.
What Happens If You're Both To Blame?
Some cases aren't as straightforward as others, and there are some cases where there isn't one single person clearly to blame. If both of you contributed to the incident, there may be a division of liability.
For example, if you've been given permission to pick strawberries in your neighbor's strawberry patch and you bring your dog with you without securing the pooch on a leash, someone trespassing and stealing strawberries may be partially to blame for being bitten while you still have some responsibility for violating leash laws. The same could apply if someone was clearly provoking or teasing your dog. In cases like that, the courts will usually assign a percentage of liability to each party. The judge may find that the trespassing victim was 50 percent at fault, so you'll be ordered to only pay half of the resulting judgment.
Any personal injury case can be subjective and complex. Dog bite cases are no exception. As you can see from this information, there are many variables that can affect the outcome. Talk with a personal injury attorney, such as those at Walsh Fewkes Sterba, right away if you believe that your dog has bitten someone. He or she can help you determine how to proceed. In the meantime, use the information here to ensure that you're not putting yourself at greater risk. Secure your dog, follow the local leash laws and be vigilant of your own actions where your dog is concerned to reduce your risk of liability.